Free Will Vs Destiny?

Booo

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#1
Apologies if this is the wrong thread section to post this in, but I was curious what others' believed in personally..

Perhaps you have had experiences where something was destined, I.e. Had a premonition dream which came true, or have been to a medium before who predicted things that happened exactly as they foresaw?

I personally have had a few experiences to prove (in my belief for me personally) that there is a destiny out there and we cannot control certain things that happen. I certainly think that major times in our lives are destined such as when we die and marry etc.

It's interesting to hear people's personal beliefs and theories.
 

AlchoPwn

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#2
I think to have free will, there would need to be some proof that our minds are something transcendent of physical reality. We presently have no solid proof of that, and considerable proof to the contrary. Our minds are governed by the conditions affecting our brains, and our brains are composed of the same constituent matter as our bodies and the rest of the material world. Chaos theory tells us that any complex system becomes predictable if it can be measured to enough decimal places, and this likely holds true even ultimately for turbulent systems. Thus free will is an illusion created by human ignorance.

The question becomes then, what happens when we learn to predict ourselves? Clearly those who are rapid up-takers will gain the most advantage, as they navigate the world with a system that optimizes their lives, but ultimately the same algorithm and all the subsequent predictive algorithms will become our future leaders.
 

Dropship

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#3
Perhaps you have had experiences where something was destined, I.e. Had a premonition dream which came true,.
The only one that springs to mind is many years ago when I woke up in the night feeling hot and drenched in sweat, something that'd never happened before or since.
I was unemployed at the time and next day I went down the Jobcentre to look for any old job and they randomly gave me the address of a shoemaking company, so I went along and they set me on the "hot blast" which involved shrinking the leather, and I was soon sweating just like in the dream.
 

PeteS

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#4
Apologies if this is the wrong thread section to post this in, but I was curious what others' believed in personally..

Perhaps you have had experiences where something was destined, I.e. Had a premonition dream which came true, or have been to a medium before who predicted things that happened exactly as they foresaw?

I personally have had a few experiences to prove (in my belief for me personally) that there is a destiny out there and we cannot control certain things that happen. I certainly think that major times in our lives are destined such as when we die and marry etc.

It's interesting to hear people's personal beliefs and theories.
It's a question I have pondered over the years- are free will and destiny mutually exclusive? As I've mentioned before a medium predicted when I would meet my future wife, the initials of her three names and town where she lived and the date and age she would die. It was of my own free will that I progressed the relationship when I met her, and that I married her, (having completely forgotten the details of the medium's predictions). It can only then have been my destiny that this would happen to me.
In simple terms I have come to the conclusion that we may have free will to make certain choices in life , but our destiny is that we will follow one particular path. Only my view obviously. I'm sure others will disagree.
 

Analogue Boy

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#5
If we’re alll living in an artificial or holographic universe, our lives are just memories or we’re nothing more than a bunch of NPCs giving each other menial quests to do.
 

Ulalume

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#6
I tend not to believe in destiny per se, I imagine our future is not set in stone, but here are a couple of things. Make of them what you will.

First story -
In the mid 90's my life seemed to be one disaster after another, and I had this feeling - a very strong, concrete feeling - that I had made a wrong turn, or more specifically, not made the turn I was supposed to - and that's why so much was going wrong.

I remember thinking, "well, if I'm not supposed to be here, where am I supposed to be?" But there was no clear answer, only that I'd missed a turn and now my life was off track.

A few months later, through a series of random events, I ended up visiting my cousin in a town where I'd never been before. The moment I stepped out of the car and put my feet on the ground I knew with absolute certainty that this was the place I was supposed to have been, and I was back on the correct path. There was an immense sense of relief. A short time later, I met the man I would marry and we fell in love at first sight. We lived in that place for 17 years.

Second story -
Last year, our old car bit the dust. We needed a new one, but this was tricky, because we're not rich and student loans had damaged our credit.

Regardless, I told my husband that I knew we would have a certain car of a specific make, a lightly used former rental car, of a certain color for a low price. I told him to call the rental car company and ask about it. He did, and it turned out they'd just got a car like this, and we were able to buy it.

My husband was stunned, but like I said, I knew it all along. To make matters slightly more mystical, this had happened the day before, and it was the car issue I'd asked about, being as we were driving around in a ludicrously expensive rental until we could get it sorted out. It was right after that this incident that I knew what would happen.

I am not so sure these things were destined, I mean, I'm sure I could have prevented them from happening had I not made a move. However, it feels as if this fate was there waiting for me, I just had to make a move to get to it. If that makes any sense.
 

AlchoPwn

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#7
It's a question I have pondered over the years- are free will and destiny mutually exclusive? As I've mentioned before a medium predicted when I would meet my future wife, the initials of her three names and town where she lived and the date and age she would die. It was of my own free will that I progressed the relationship when I met her, and that I married her, (having completely forgotten the details of the medium's predictions). It can only then have been my destiny that this would happen to me.
In simple terms I have come to the conclusion that we may have free will to make certain choices in life , but our destiny is that we will follow one particular path. Only my view obviously. I'm sure others will disagree.
You may think it was your choice whether you pursued the relationship with your wife, but you haven't factored her "free will" into that picture. Maybe she was more compelled than you? Is it possible your hormonal drivers were making the decisions for you both? The argument is recursive if pursued in this way, so I offer you a better way of asking the same question:

If your destiny can be predicted with accuracy, then how can you pretend you have free will?
 

PeteS

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#8
You may think it was your choice whether you pursued the relationship with your wife, but you haven't factored her "free will" into that picture. Maybe she was more compelled than you? Is it possible your hormonal drivers were making the decisions for you both? The argument is recursive if pursued in this way, so I offer you a better way of asking the same question:

If your destiny can be predicted with accuracy, then how can you pretend you have free will?
Because there were an awful lot of choices I had to make around this particular chapter in my life - more than I had ever have to make around any situation before or since. Altering any of those decisions I made would have affected the outcome. I believe my destiny was to choose that particular series of decisions I made - all made with without any pressure from any other source, particularly the other person concerned. Only my personal belief (and unalterable ;) ), not one shared by any one I know either. Again, I am not trying to convince anyone here.
 

Mikefule

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#9
You can choose to believe in determinism if you like, but in the end, we are obliged to feel that we have free will.

There are many related but slightly different concepts.

Aetiology (US = etiology) relates to causation: A causes B causes C and so on until the eventual outcome. This is a "snooker balls" view of how things and events interact in chronological sequence. It is often useful in everyday life.

Teleology is in some ways the opposite: the idea that things and events are drawn towards an ultimate goal. Teleology as an idea easily becomes contaminated with the idea of "purpose" or "intention" although purpose and intention can only occur where there is a conscious mind to have that purpose or intention.

Someone who favours the aetiological view might point to the effect of hard work, poor diet, disease, and the gradual breaking down of the replication of DNA and conclude that these things "cause" someone to grow old and die.

Someone who favours the teleological view might point to the need for each new generation to have space to live, resources such as food and water, one earlier generation to help to look after the children, and no substantially older generations to be a burden. In this view, the decline and death of the older individual is caused by the need for the next generation to thrive.

Causation is the concept that events are caused by previous events. If you had perfect knowledge of all of the facts then you would be able to start from one point in time and work forwards or backwards to make accurate predictions about what you would find. In a sense, the "direction of time" is irrelevant to causation, although it remains relevant to us because of the way that we experience the events.

Randomness is when events of a similar nature do not occur in a predictable pattern. However, there are two ways that this can arise:
  1. There is no pattern at all.
  2. We can never have enough information to be able make the prediction.
Consider the tossing of a coin. The outcome will depend to a greater lesser degree on the position and energy state of every molecule in the coin, every molecule of air in the room, and every molecule in the body of the person tossing the coin — and many other factors.

It would be impossible to collate all of this information. Even if, for the sake of argument, it took 1 nanosecond to gather it all, some of the variables would have changed between collecting details of the first molecule and details of the last. Therefore, our calculations would inevitably be slightly out. When we take a snapshot on a digital camera, the information for each pixel is saved at a slightly different time. The differences are infinitesimal, but they are there.

Chaos theory shows that sometimes, a tiny change in initial conditions can have a substantial effect on the outcome. Rather than looking at this as a mathematical theory, consider the effect of a single pebble on a busy road road being thrown up by the wheel of a truck. The tiniest change in one of the variables could make the difference between the pebble hitting the bonnet (hood) of a car, or the windscreen (windshield), or hitting a motorcyclist and knocking him off his bike and killing him. Millions of pebbles are thrown up by wheels every day. Most do no damage, some chip paintwork, a few smash windscreens, and occasionally someone is killed. Sometimes the biker is killed and his bike slides harmlessly down the road and sometimes it causes a major pile up. All of this variation is because the pebble was a milligramme heavier, or slightly smoother, or the truck's tyres were 0.1 bar higher or lower in pressure, or, or, or...


  • Destiny is generally positive. Your life leads ultimately to success. "He was destined for great things."
  • Fate is more ambivalent. "They were fated to meet and fall in love," or "A terrible fate awaited him."
  • Doom is always bad. "Prepare to meet thy doom." "He was doomed to die."
In fact, Destiny, fate, doom, wyrd, kismet, star crossed, etc. are all the same thing: labels that we attach to sequences of events and their outcomes because humans like to ascribe a narrative and a meaning to things.

So back to the original question. I met my wife through a dating website. It was just over a year after I had separated from a former partner and I was ready to start dating. It was about the same length of time since she had separated from a former partner. I chose the website solely because a friend had used it successfully: he now lives with a girl he met via the site.

The website offered me several thousand "matches" and I narrowed the search terms down slightly. One short sentence in her profile caught my attention. I contacted her. We both happened to be free a day or two later. We met and fell in love.

If we look at the chain of causation, I can identify many fortunate coincidences. If I believed in destiny, or fate, I might say we were destined or fated to meet.
  • My friend who recommended the website had used other websites, It was only luck that he met his fiancée through that particular one.
  • I met that friend on my first night at fencing club.
  • I went to that fencing club only because they had a beginners' course starting only a few days after I searched for fencing clubs in my area.
  • I searched on that particular day because I had seen a picture of a unicyclist in fencing gear in the unicycle forum. I have never seen a picture of a unicyclist in fencing gear before or since.
  • I had started unicycling only because I happened to see a unicyclist at an event that I seldom attended.
  • And so on.
Of course all of the timings and details of other life events mattered as well. The chances on meeting my wife were a proverbial million to one. The point is, if I hadn't met her, I would not have known, and would probably have met someone else and been approximately as happy. I might then have felt that I had been "fated" or "destined" to meet her.

Was it predestined? Only if I am selective in which facts I include in my narrative.

Did I have free will? Did she? It certainly felt like it.

Was that free will decision in reality dictated by the position and energy level of every molecule in my system and hers? Possibly, but as this information could never conceivably have been accurately collated and studied, it is a meaningless question.

In life, we make a small number of decisions. Most of what we do is habit or whim, or responding unthinkingly to social stimuli. However, that does not mean that there is no element of free will. Sometimes we make big decisions deliberately and after careful thought. Are they caused by our previous experiences and our desires? Yes, in a sense, but if they had no cause at all, they would be meaningless.


Buridan's ass was a hypothetical donkey, placed equidistant between two bales of hay that were equally attractive. If the forces of attraction (donkey attracted to food) were exactly and perfectly equal, a donkey with no free will would starve. However, none of us believes that the donkey would starve. He would choose which one to eat first.

If Buridan had instead postulated a metal pin placed exactly and perfectly equidistant between two perfectly identical magnets, the pin would stay there indefinitely. A pin has no free will.
 
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AlchoPwn

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#10
Buridan's ass was a hypothetical donkey, placed equidistant between two bales of hay that were equally attractive. If the forces of attraction (donkey attracted to food) were exactly and perfectly equal, a donkey with no free will would starve. However, none of us believes that the donkey would starve. He would choose which one to eat first. If Buridan had instead postulated a metal pin placed exactly and perfectly equidistant between two perfectly identical magnets, the pin would stay there indefinitely. A pin has no free will.
The point is, no two "bales of hay" are equally attractive. Furthermore, a donkey doesn't know it is being given a choice, it will simply eat one bale of hay, and expect to eat the other subsequently, and perhaps be a little perturbed if you remove the other one after it has made its choice. The donkey simply sees food + food=food.
 

Mikefule

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#11
The point is, no two "bales of hay" are equally attractive. Furthermore, a donkey doesn't know it is being given a choice, it will simply eat one bale of hay, and expect to eat the other subsequently, and perhaps be a little perturbed if you remove the other one after it has made its choice. The donkey simply sees food + food=food.
No. In the case of the entirely hypothetical situation set up by Buridan, the point is that the two attractive options are absolutely exactly equally attractive. (Incidentally, in the original formulation, the donkey was "equally" hungry and thirsty, and the two options were "equally" attractive water and hay.) The same basic idea can be traced back to Aristotle.

If the two choices are absolutely and utterly equally attractive, then there are only 3 options:
  1. Purely deterministically, the ass must stay in the same position and starve, or
  2. With free will, the ass may decide to go for one bale of hay or the other, or
  3. A purely random factor (therefore neither deterministic nor free will) must make the ass turn one way or the other.

Al-Ghazali (who died 1111), a Persian scholar, used dates (the fruit) as his analogy and said:

"Suppose two similar dates in front of a man, who has a strong desire for them but who is unable to take them both. Surely he will take one of them, through a quality in him, the nature of which is to differentiate between two similar things."

In this case, "similar" clearly has the literal meaning of "exactly the same" rather than the looser way that we often use the word.

In all cases, it is accepted that if there is the slightest imbalance (even by 0.000 000 000 000 000 001%) then the choice would be caused by this imbalance.

However, the hypothetical situation is that if the two bales of hay were absolutely exactly equally attractive, if the balance of attractive forces were perfect, then a donkey without freewill would starve, which is clearly absurd.

However, in a case of pure physics, such as a pin perfectly positioned between two identical magnets, the pin would remain in a metastable state (not move!) until circumstances changed.

One of the problems here is that the paradox is based on a situation that would be impossible in practice. Of course you could not really set up two exactly equally attractive bales of hay that decayed at exactly the same rate and place the donkey perfectly equidistant between them. However, the the question is, if there was nothing to cause a person to do one thing or another, would they literally do nothing at all? It is not testable, but I think not.

SPOILER ALERT
Asimov dealt with a similar situation in one of his Robot short stories, although I cannot recall the title. Asimov proposed 3 laws of robotics (later amended to 4) and set up a situation in which a robot faced a conflict between the laws. As I recall it, he had to rescue a human from a radiation zone, but he knew that the radiation would fry his circuits making it impossible for him to rescue the human. The robot reached the point where the requirements of the 2 laws were equally balanced. He could not walk away from the human, but he could not approach closer. He then walked around the perimeter of a circle at a radius where these two forces were perfectly balanced. The humans back at the base were therefore able to infer that the stranded human was in the centre of that circle, and they went in and rescued him.

Point is the robot was absolutely deterministic according to strictly programmed rules, and reacted to the perfect balance of conflicting forces, but the humans were able to choose whether to take an unacceptable level of risk in order to rescue their friend.
 

AlchoPwn

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#12
No. In the case of the entirely hypothetical situation set up by Buridan, the point is that the two attractive options are absolutely exactly equally attractive. (Incidentally, in the original formulation, the donkey was "equally" hungry and thirsty, and the two options were "equally" attractive water and hay.) The same basic idea can be traced back to Aristotle.
I get it. My point is that it is a false non-dichotomy. A donkey is never equally attracted to 2 bales, ever. All a donkey sees is food, period. A donkey doesn't differentiate, and even humans have a built in loop breaker that tells them they are needlessly wasting time in such situations.

If the two choices are absolutely and utterly equally attractive, then there are only 3 options:
  1. Purely deterministically, the ass must stay in the same position and starve, or
  2. With free will, the ass may decide to go for one bale of hay or the other, or
  3. A purely random factor (therefore neither deterministic nor free will) must make the ass turn one way or the other.
This is an act of projection on Buridan's part. An ass doesn't see choice, or difference. All an ass sees is food. It is humans (perhaps especially in their love lives) who create such problems for themselves. Prevarication and second guessing themselves are not overly prevalent amongst herbivores.

Al-Ghazali (who died 1111), a Persian scholar, used dates (the fruit) as his analogy and said:

"Suppose two similar dates in front of a man, who has a strong desire for them but who is unable to take them both. Surely he will take one of them, through a quality in him, the nature of which is to differentiate between two similar things." In this case, "similar" clearly has the literal meaning of "exactly the same" rather than the looser way that we often use the word. In all cases, it is accepted that if there is the slightest imbalance (even by 0.000 000 000 000 000 001%) then the choice would be caused by this imbalance.
I would put money on the fact that in such a case, the human if properly informed would just say "meh" and just reach for the closest one to their dominant hand.

However, in a case of pure physics, such as a pin perfectly positioned between two identical magnets, the pin would remain in a metastable state (not move!) until circumstances changed.
See, now THAT is interesting. I had a toy top that used that principle to spin while hovering in midair.

One of the problems here is that the paradox is based on a situation that would be impossible in practice.
Agreed. That was my point all along. As though experiments go, it isn't a good one imo.

SPOILER ALERT
Asimov dealt with a similar situation in one of his Robot short stories, although I cannot recall the title. Asimov proposed 3 laws of robotics (later amended to 4) and set up a situation in which a robot faced a conflict between the laws. As I recall it, he had to rescue a human from a radiation zone, but he knew that the radiation would fry his circuits making it impossible for him to rescue the human. The robot reached the point where the requirements of the 2 laws were equally balanced. He could not walk away from the human, but he could not approach closer. He then walked around the perimeter of a circle at a radius where these two forces were perfectly balanced. The humans back at the base were therefore able to infer that the stranded human was in the centre of that circle, and they went in and rescued him.Point is the robot was absolutely deterministic according to strictly programmed rules, and reacted to the perfect balance of conflicting forces, but the humans were able to choose whether to take an unacceptable level of risk in order to rescue their friend.
Yes, I recall the Azimov story. I recall thinking that it wasn't a bad estimation of what an algorithm might do in such a set of circumstances.
 

Booo

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#13
Personally, I don't believe all in free will. I've had experiences to prove otherwise, but I don't feel comfortable writing them to get them shot down and explained by science. It is important to have a healthy understanding of science and not think that everything is magic and fairydust, but I don't think that science is accounted for, for everything.

I do believe that at least some things are destined in life that we cannot control. Such as when we die, who comes in and out of our lives and how long they're there for, when we marry or have children/don't have children etc.

Why is it that people have premonitions that come to pass, such as a dream of a family member or friend passing and it happens, or stories online from real people on forums like this where they have been driving along the road and heard a voice say 'slow down', to narrowly avoid an accident? That isn't free will. I can completely understand why people would believe in free will, I could decide for breakfast I want a fry up and suddenly change my mind and not feel peckish, etc.

Personally, I believe that our choices are pre-determined in life. People might say then "what is the point?''. The point is, we all have different lives to live and lessons to learn. Even a non-spiritualist would agree we learn all of the time throughout our life. I might die at 35 of cancer, someone else on this board might live to 100 and be very fit and healthy, have a good life. Yes, karma added into the mix. What you send out comes back to you, I have seen karma happen and I don't believe that that's free will and certainly science would most likely argue against karma.

People have written on here that they've been to psychics who have predicted things that came to pass years on and I have been able to 'premonition' things myself. If there is free will, then how could they see these things? If there is a free will, I believe that we can put things off and delay things in life, but we will still come to those end destinations we were supposed to.

Why is it that some people want to go into a career and they try and try everything and it wasn't meant for them? If they had free will, surely they'd be able to succeed by the law of averages, because it is their free will and choice? I do believe things happen on purpose and I don't mean that there's a God who controls our life and decides our future, but I do believe in life lessons and reincarnation where we have had past lives and perhaps had a better life in our last life so this life we are to learn how tough life can be, etc. That is my personal belief and I respect others who are more on the science side of things because if is their belief. But professor Brian Cox is heavily into science as we all know and I aww recently in the news him saying that ghosts are not real. I have had so many experiences with the paranormal that I could fill a book, so I have my proof that science isn't always accurate like people make out it is. Some things cannot be explained that I and others around me have experienced.
 
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#14
I would say that free will and precognition are not incompatible. One dictionary definition of free will is the ability to make decisions without pressure from peers or from an outside intelligence. According to this definition, a large proportion of decisions made in my life are free will definitions e.g. when I buy a new car, I don't buy a particular one because my friends have persuaded me to or because God has told me to - I buy it as a result of comparing prices, examining suitable models, etc. Hence it is a free will decision. I would say that when precognition occurs, it is seeing the outcome of people exercising their free will and/or the outcome of the laws of nature taking effect.
 

AlchoPwn

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#15
I would say that free will and precognition are not incompatible.
How can visions of the future that regularly come true be anything other than an indication that the future is predestined and free will is an illusion? For that sort of thing to happen at all (even once), is a major blow to the notion of free will. It simply shouldn't be possible in a world where free will exists, as the butterfly effect and the sheer random turbulence of world events should preclude the possibility of a working supernatural vision of the future to exist at all. If such visions are possible, that implies that there is an underlying predictability to the pattern of even the most random events, and that leaves the notion of free will in tatters, as merely a humanist illusion and an hubristic conceit. If even one apparently random event can be predicted with complete accuracy the implications are clearly that anything and everything could potentially be predicted by such a vision too.
 
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#16
You could argue that natural events such as earthquakes and hurricanes are predestined / inevitable, as, clearly, people using their free will does not cause such events. So precognition of such events doesn't present much of a problem. However, as regards events caused by people's decisions, by definition, I don't see that they can be predestined. If I don't make a decision as to where to go on holiday next year until, say, the Autumn of this year, then how can it be predestined that I will go to such-and-such place for my holiday next year? If someone has a vision of my holiday next year, then I would say that they are stepping outside the time dimension to see the result of a decision that I will make in the future. An analogy would be to consider a two-dimensional creature crawling along the ground from, say, Dronfield to Chesterfield. Such a creature would say it was a nonsense to be able to tell what's going on in Chesterfield until they have crawled there. However, someone existing in the three-dimensional world can go up in a helicopter above Unstone, look one way to see what's going on in Chesterfield and look the other way to see what's going on in Dronfield, i.e. they have stepped outside the two-dimensional world. So if you step outside the time dimension, you would be able to see what to us is past, present and future. Time is a dimension of the physical universe. Spirit beings, existing in the spiritual universe, would be outside the constraints of the physical universe and potentially be able to communicate future events.
 

AlchoPwn

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#17
However, as regards events caused by people's decisions, by definition, I don't see that they can be predestined. If I don't make a decision as to where to go on holiday next year until, say, the Autumn of this year, then how can it be predestined that I will go to such-and-such place for my holiday next year?
Well, you certainly have the illusion that such decisions are the product of free will, but you aren't considering all the facts. If it is true that we live only in a single universe, and that universe had its origins in the Big Bang, then everything that has played out subsequently is the ineluctable product of the effects of linear time on the physical universe of matter and the forces that modify its behavior. There will only ever be one trajectory to that universe and the materials within it, including the events on our tiny planet. Now if we were to model that universe perfectly on a computer, and it was accurate backwards from the moment it was tested, and then we played it forwards, we could perfectly predict the future, and it would demonstrate that your choices are not your own, but are pre-determined by millions of tiny interactions. It is not "you" who makes your decisions, but your brain chemistry, and that is controlled by diet, genetics, geography, and events that seem random, but aren't.

Every day our predictive algorithms get better.
 

Mikefule

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#18
Well, you certainly have the illusion that such decisions are the product of free will, but you aren't considering all the facts. If it is true that we live only in a single universe, and that universe had its origins in the Big Bang, then everything that has played out subsequently is the ineluctable product of the effects of linear time on the physical universe of matter and the forces that modify its behavior. There will only ever be one trajectory to that universe and the materials within it, including the events on our tiny planet. Now if we were to model that universe perfectly on a computer, and it was accurate backwards from the moment it was tested, and then we played it forwards, we could perfectly predict the future, and it would demonstrate that your choices are not your own, but are pre-determined by millions of tiny interactions. It is not "you" who makes your decisions, but your brain chemistry, and that is controlled by diet, genetics, geography, and events that seem random, but aren't.

Every day our predictive algorithms get better.
What you say makes perfect sense as a thought experiment. However, it would never be possible to collate all of the data instantaneously, or to process it instantaneously.

Even with systems a billion times faster than we can possibly imagine, it would necessarily take a finite amount of time to collect the data. At a subatomic level, events happen so quickly that by the time you had collected the data of the millionth particle, the first 999,999 particles would have changed state. Then by the time you had factored the millionth piece of data into your calculation, the first 999,999 would no longer be valid.

Therefore, perfect prediction would be fundamentally impossible. Improved accuracy is attainable — inevitable, even — but perfection is not.

For illustrative comparison, whilst no one would deny that it is always theoretically possible for someone to shave 0.001 seconds off the world record for the 100 metre sprint, it is fundamentally impossible to keep doing so until the record time is 0.00 seconds (completing the distance instantaneously).

Another factor to consider is that at a quantum level, events are random. We can speculate whether they are literally random, or merely fundamentally unpredictable because any attempt to measure them changes them. My understanding is that scientists say that quantum events are literally random rather than "conventionally treated as random because we can't measure them".

I believe that the free will/determinism argument is pointless because it depends on how you define your terms, and how far you are prepared to go with thought experiments that could never be replicated in real life.

A more interesting question for me is, if we are just the inevitable products of our inheritance, body chemistry, environment and experiences, but it feels like we have free will, then who is doing the feeling? If I am no more than the sum of an incalculably large but finite number of events and particles, who is the I who experiences my reality, and the feeling of free will?
 

SkepticalX

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#19
I sometimes think that if we were able to look at a situation with absolutely complete, universal knowledge, we would see that there really are no choices involved - only one, logical way for events to unfold. The whole perception of choice may be rooted in the fact that we view the world with incomplete knowledge, which makes impossible alternate courses of action seem possible.
 

AlchoPwn

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#20
What you say makes perfect sense as a thought experiment. However, it would never be possible to collate all of the data instantaneously, or to process it instantaneously.
You only need to compile it once, and you can potentially do that far faster than it actually took to occur. That is the beauty of deep predictive algorithms.
Even with systems a billion times faster than we can possibly imagine, it would necessarily take a finite amount of time to collect the data. At a subatomic level, events happen so quickly that by the time you had collected the data of the millionth particle, the first 999,999 particles would have changed state. Then by the time you had factored the millionth piece of data into your calculation, the first 999,999 would no longer be valid.
The beauty of mathematics is that once you understand the underlying patterns to a level of complexity that renders them predictable, the micro-fluctuations are already factored in. I personally would be far more concerned and interested in how the beginnings of life gets predicted, as that would be wildly complicated.
Therefore, perfect prediction would be fundamentally impossible. Improved accuracy is attainable — inevitable, even — but perfection is not.
Given the rate at which our predictive powers have grown since the beginning of the scientific revolution, I will simply have to disagree with you. Our rate of technical improvement is approaching exponential growth.
For illustrative comparison, whilst no one would deny that it is always theoretically possible for someone to shave 0.001 seconds off the world record for the 100 metre sprint, it is fundamentally impossible to keep doing so until the record time is 0.00 seconds (completing the distance instantaneously).
This example is only true if you play by the rules of a sport that intentionally limits your performance by demanding that you physically run. Technology insists on no such limits. Hell, how fast can a person in a matress ball fired from a flat trajectory catapult cover 100m? That is a bad low tech answer, but it illustrates my point with an example of comedy visualization.
Another factor to consider is that at a quantum level, events are random. We can speculate whether they are literally random, or merely fundamentally unpredictable because any attempt to measure them changes them. My understanding is that scientists say that quantum events are literally random rather than "conventionally treated as random because we can't measure them".
Once again, the term "random" is a way of saying "human ignorance". Once upon a time we thought that rolling dice was random, but now we can build a machine that will consistently roll whatever number we want. We use a similar device to break coke bottles to reliably produce 1 micron edge scalpel blades. The more you study a system, the more predictable it becomes, until eventually you can model its behavior. This is fundamental to chaos theory. Nothing is truly random, we are merely ignorant of how to manage the variables at present.

I believe that the free will/determinism argument is pointless because it depends on how you define your terms, and how far you are prepared to go with thought experiments that could never be replicated in real life.
To say something "can't be done" is a bit like declaring that everything that can be invented has been invented. Think about it. You are seriously saying that humanity will never invent something that can solve these problems, just because we haven't yet. The evidence is against you on that one. We invent new technologies at a frightening rate, and who knows what will be possible even five years from now?
A more interesting question for me is, if we are just the inevitable products of our inheritance, body chemistry, environment and experiences, but it feels like we have free will, then who is doing the feeling? If I am no more than the sum of an incalculably large but finite number of events and particles, who is the I who experiences my reality, and the feeling of free will?
The question of consciousness is a completely different issue. A fascinating issue to be certain, but outside the scope of the present discussion.
 

gattino

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#21
As someone personally persuaded of the precognitive nature of ordinary dreams - and daydreams - I've come to personal conclusions about the mechanism behind it and, from my perspective, there is no contradiction between such experiences and free will.

When I was paying much closer attention to my dreams and recording their constant precognitive content (always trivial - no plane crashes or assassinations in sight!), I came to the realisation that images related to the future were indistinguishable in nature, quality or number from images inspired by the past. That essentially both were fantasies constructed from memories. When something in the dream related to yesterday's experience, no one would doubt it was inspired by a memory of yesterday. When something in the dream related to tomorrow's experience, it seemed to me, then it too was inspired by a memory..of tomorrow. Subsequent reading - Dunne et al - showed that i was far from the first to come to this conclusion. A precognitive dream is remembering something on the wrong night.

How can that be - to remember future events if they haven't already in some sense happened "out there"? The answer to that, it strikes me, lies in what memories are and where they are stored. It's far from a solved issue - though i'm certain some will pop up on here to claim that it is. And in fact any notion of the psychic, survival of death, an afterlife, reincarnation, oobes and all the vast cornucopia of consciousness related fortean topics depend on some notion of memories existing somewhere other than purely in the meat and chemistry of the physical brain.

So for the sake of argument lets assume they do.


My fanciful theory makes no pretence whatsoever of being scientifically valid or true or even sound. Its purely a speculative thought experiment.

As in the analogy used in computing lets assume our memory bank is like a cloud "up there" somewhere where memories are stored and from which they can be retrieved. Near death, transcendental, psychedelic and mediumistic experiences all talk of the same thing...that that "up there", the non physical realm of consciousness, is a place where time either doesn't exist or has no meaning, or where past present and future all exist at once. So again lets assume our memory bank occupies such territory. I act, I form a memory, its stored in the bank..or cloud, or what have you. While my physical life and experience continues in a linear fashion, the place where the memory of my experiences is stored is outside of normal time considerations. So the memories i formed 20 years ago and the ones i'll form 20 years from now are all stored in the one timeless "location". And while i can consciously retrieve the memories from my physical past, its only in certain altered states of consciousness such as dreaming that i can access the stuff that will be stored there in my physical future.

In short, my life continues in the conscious waking linear physical world with my free will entirely intact..i can choose to go left or right at any time with complete freedom. But whatever i do freely in the future will be stored as a memory in an independent of time location that I can access, in certain circumstances, in the present.

And what of people claiming to change the outcome of a future glimpsed in a dream? Such as, being forewarned, managing to swerve a car crash and being only lightly injured rather than killed as they had "foreseen"? That strikes me as ascribing qualities to precognitive dreams which we don't to a regular dream. In my estimation a PD IS a regular dream, and just like any other is far from from a precise re-enactment of the events which inspired it. The divergent end to the story is not evidence of you having changed the future but rather of the dream, as dreams do, creating its own alternative plot.
 
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feinman

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#23
I've always thought it is a matter of perspective; once the "wave collapses" and we look back in retrospect, it couldn't have happened in any other way, because the whole universe has a vote at any moment --if forces didn't cause change, it's because they couldn't. Moving forward, we have free will, or the illusion of it. The modus operandi of predestination IS free will.
 

Lizard King

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#24
I have always been fascinated by the free will/destiny debate. I am still unsure. A lovely lady who I worked with, was quite a spiritual person and believed that there was a date set for when we died and there was nothing we could do about it. She said to me "The day you realise that there is a date set for when you die, is the day you will start living your life"She felt free.So this is maybe a combo of free will, which leads to your destined date of death. I also remember watching the programme about death row where the Governor believed it was his destiny to look after the prisoners, as every decision he had made in his life and the decisions they had made ,led to the exact point of their meeting. It was meant to be. All their lives they had been heading towards each other. I think of that a lot.One story which I find fascinating but not sure what to make of , was a true story told to me by a colleague. Several years ago a man went swimming on a really remote beach on the coast of Scotland. The only other people on the beach were a Cardiologist from London and his wife. The swimmer had a heart attack and the Doctor tried to save him but unfortunately the man died.It would have been an amazing story had he survived, but he didn't. It may mean something or nothing at all.
 

INT21

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#25
I have always been fascinated by the free will/destiny debate. I am still unsure. A lovely lady who I worked with, was quite a spiritual person and believed that there was a date set for when we died and there was nothing we could do about it. She said to me "The day you realise that there is a date set for when you die, is the day you will start living your life"She felt free.l.
Yet would she have been so happy if she had been told the exact date of here death, but not the means ?

Must concentrate the mind, knowing when you will die.

Got to go, I'm on stalking duty. Now, where is my dirty raincoat ? May fit in a bit of flashing while I'm out there.

INT21.
 

Floyd1

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#26
I have always been fascinated by the free will/destiny debate. I am still unsure. A lovely lady who I worked with, was quite a spiritual person and believed that there was a date set for when we died and there was nothing we could do about it. She said to me "The day you realise that there is a date set for when you die, is the day you will start living your life"She felt free.So this is maybe a combo of free will, which leads to your destined date of death. I also remember watching the programme about death row where the Governor believed it was his destiny to look after the prisoners, as every decision he had made in his life and the decisions they had made ,led to the exact point of their meeting. It was meant to be. All their lives they had been heading towards each other. I think of that a lot.One story which I find fascinating but not sure what to make of , was a true story told to me by a colleague. Several years ago a man went swimming on a really remote beach on the coast of Scotland. The only other people on the beach were a Cardiologist from London and his wife. The swimmer had a heart attack and the Doctor tried to save him but unfortunately the man died.It would have been an amazing story had he survived, but he didn't. It may mean something or nothing at all.
This is something I have also thought a lot about. I find it a very interesting subject; Predestination/determinism/fatalism. I don't think we have 'free will'. That rain drop was always going to fall there; we're just 'passing through.
 

gattino

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#27
A lovely lady who I worked with, was quite a spiritual person and believed that there was a date set for when we died and there was nothing we could do about it.
That's reminded me of the confusing mixed messages to be taken from near death and deathbed experiences.

One of the most common elements of NDE's is the person being told "you have to go back. It's not your time yet"...which, if taken at face value, would suggest they have indeed got a set time at which to die. But that raises as many questions as it answers...like, does that mean the life they lead up to that point is also pre-scripted? If so, what's the point? How can they be "learning" anything if they have no choice in what they do or how they react to it? And what about suicides? Have they overcome these celestial ordinances, or was their act of suicide itself pre-ordained? And finally in a pre-scripted, predestined life, does that mean the near death experience itself was plotted out from the beginning too? If so, again why? Why not just let the person remember their spiritual existence from the beginning and save the bother?

On the other hand almost as many NDE experiencers will recount the tale as one of choosing to come back, which suggests they might have opted not to and their date of death therefore being flexible.

It's the same story with End Of Life/Deathbed experiences. One often reported phenomenon is the patient predicting their own death to the day or even hour. Again, suggesting no choice. Yet others seems to argue for..and gain...more time in order to say goodbye to someone.

So its all rather confusing.
 

Floyd1

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#28
That's reminded me of the confusing mixed messages to be taken from near death and deathbed experiences.

One of the most common elements of NDE's is the person being told "you have to go back. It's not your time yet"...which, if taken at face value, would suggest they have indeed got a set time at which to die. But that raises as many questions as it answers...like, does that mean the life they lead up to that point is also pre-scripted? If so, what's the point? How can they be "learning" anything if they have no choice in what they do or how they react to it? And what about suicides? Have they overcome these celestial ordinances, or was their act of suicide itself pre-ordained? And finally in a pre-scripted, predestined life, does that mean the near death experience itself was plotted out from the beginning too? If so, again why? Why not just let the person remember their spiritual existence from the beginning and save the bother?

On the other hand almost as many NDE experiencers will recount the tale as one of choosing to come back, which suggests they might have opted not to and their date of death therefore being flexible.

It's the same story with End Of Life/Deathbed experiences. One often reported phenomenon is the patient predicting their own death to the day or even hour. Again, suggesting no choice. Yet others seems to argue for..and gain...more time in order to say goodbye to someone.

So its all rather confusing.
''does that mean the life they lead up to that point is also pre-scripted?'' Yes.
''If so, what's the point?'' That's the question.
''How can they be "learning" anything if they have no choice in what they do or how they react to it?'' No choice doesn't mean they can't learn.
And what about suicides? Have they overcome these celestial ordinances, or was their act of suicide itself pre-ordained? Yes.
And finally in a pre-scripted, predestined life, does that mean the near death experience itself was plotted out from the beginning too? Yes.
 

Schrodinger's Zebra

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#29
If one believes, as I do, in the concept of multiple universes/dimensions/timelines, then it is easy to explain a premonition as something which is only one of several possibilities.

Take for instance, the story I read about (probably in Time Storms) of someone who dreamt of a terrible car crash which was going to take place, under specific circumstances, on a trip they had planned. The following day, during the trip, the circumstances of the dream were beginning to happen but as a result of recognising this, they were able to avoid the accident. What, then, of the dream? Many would say "it can't have been a premonition, for it didn't happen." It equally cannot be said to have just been a random dream demonstrating generalised fear of the trip, as specifics which they could not have known about in advance, took place both in the dream and during the trip.

Surely what is left, then, is the idea that the crash was one of several pre-destined outcomes, but not the only possible outcome.

My view is that things are pre-destined to the point of covering all possible outcomes but that each person can make choices as to which one of those outcomes they end up in.

And thusly, if one ends up in a particular universe/dimension/timeline as a result of a choice they made, then would it be fair to say that they are then pre-destined to a certain extent, by the limitations of that universe/dimension/timeline?



My only experience, incidentally, of premonition is when watching the Grand National when I was a child. At the start they showed footage of each horse and jockey, and during this I felt a terrible sadness when watching one of the horses. It subsequently fell during the race and had to be put down. Make of that what you will.
 

escargot

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#30
Don't forget, we're primates. Like highly developed chimps with clothes on. We can't even work out how to stop stuffing ourselves on junk food or driving too fast. What do we know of fate, free will and destiny?
 
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